• Trusts switch clinical waste mangement providers after human body parts stockpiling scandal
  • DHSC confirms temporary storage containers are in place at affected trusts
  • List: 38 affected trusts, of around 50 in total, identified by HSJ so far

Fifteen NHS trusts have transferred their clinical waste management contracts to another provider, after it emerged a key supplier to the NHS was stockpiling human body parts and other dangerous waste.

Temporary containers have also been installed outside the other affected trusts across England, as part of contingency plans by the government following its enforcement action against Healthcare Environment Services. Around 50 trusts were affected overall. 

The company is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Environment Agency, after levels of excess clinical waste – including amputated limbs, organs, and body fluids – stored at its facilities rose up to five times beyond the limit allowed.

The stockpiling has occurred as HES has not been able to incinerate its waste fast enough.

Today the government dismissed claims by HES that its contingency plans pose a public health risk.

HSJ has identified 38 of the affected trusts (see below this story).

Trusts whose waste was taken to HES’s Normanton site for processing have agreed contracts with a new provider, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

Health minister Steve Barclay said the 15 trusts terminated the contracts on Sunday, after HES had failed to demonstrate to NHS Improvement that they were operating in line with their contractual regulations. 

Outsourcing giant Mitie has stepped in to take over the contracts, with sources telling HSJ that some of the work will be sub-contracted to other providers. 

HES is continuing to pick up waste from other trusts not served by the Normanton site. The company runs four other sites in Newcastle, Nottingham, London, and Widnes. However, the Environment Agency has previously issued warning notices over the levels of excess waste at some of these sites.

The EA has also “partially suspended” the company’s permit to operate its Normanton site, where the biggest levels of excess waste were found. 

The regulator has also warned HES it may “partially suspend” operations at HES’s Newcastle site, if the excess waste there is not removed. 

Meanwhile, as part of a £1m contingency plan, these trusts have had temporary containers installed on their premises in which clinical waste will be stored if HES can no longer provide its service.

A document leaked to HSJ revealed government officials expect HES to be unable to fulfil its obligations due to the legal action it is taking against the company.

HES claims storing the waste in the temporary containers could pose a public health risk, as it said hazardous and non-hazardous waste would be mixed together and not taken for incineration.

However, the government insisted there is “absolutely no public health risk”, and it rejected HES’s claims that there is insufficient incineration capacity in England – which the company cited among reasons for why it had stockpiled the waste.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “The EA has taken a range of action with a company which has repeatedly breached permits and has continued to operate unlawfully.”

The company released a statement at the weekend saying the amount of anatomical waste collected each week “only amounts to one per cent” of the overall tonnage of waste collected.

“Anatomical waste is not stored on any of our facilities for longer than is allowed by permitted guidelines,” a spokesman said.

Prior to losing several of the NHS contracts, the company collected around 2,000 tonnes per month, of which more than a quarter is categorised as dangerous waste.

HES is also providing clinical waste management services for primary care and pharmacies in north England under a contract awarded by NHS England, which was the subject of a failed challenge by Stericycle.

NHS England refused to comment when asked if this contract would be terminated. The government will review the way the NHS awards contracts for clinical waste management. 

The trusts and foundation trusts affected by HES’s problems include:

North Cumbria University Hospitals;

South Tyneside;

Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals;

Wye Valley;

Bradford District Care;

South London and Maudsley;

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals;

Calderdale and Huddersfield;

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole;

Leeds Teaching Hospitals;

East and North Herts;

Harrogate and District ;

Mid Yorkshire Hospitals;

Northumbria Healthcare;

Whittington Health;

University Hospitals of Derby and Burton;

Leeds Community Healthcare;

Airedale;

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough;

Sheffield Health and Social Care;

York Teaching Hospitals;

Buckinghamshire Healthcare;

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay;

Cambridgeshire Community Services;

Leeds and York Partnership;

Barnsley Hospital;

Sherwood Forest Hospitals;

University College London Hospitals;

Manchester University;

South Tees Hospitals;

South West Yorkshire Partnership;

North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals;

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals;

Sheffield Children’s;

Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital:

Guy’s and St Thomas’;

Midland Partnership;

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital;

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear;

Gateshead Health;

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys: 

The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital; and

Cumbria Partnership.

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